By Genevieve Jaser
It is a warm morning in August, and alarm clocks across Connecticut blare the all-too familiar tone; it is the first day of school.
For freshmen, both those who reside on and off campus, transitioning from high school to college may be an exciting but overwhelming thought. It signifies moving onward, and invites one to experience a change in routine, but more so, in life. While change may present itself as an intimidating force, students are encouraged by faculty, staff and surrounding students to seek out opportunities.
For Sarah Gossman, history major, landing a leadership role came as a surprise, but only after becoming involved on campus. As the class president of 2022, she appreciates the opportunity she has to represent and work on uniting her class.
She says: “You go to a school, I think it’s very important that, you know, what’s going on, and I think it’s a huge responsibility that I have a voice, and I’m representing a large body of people.”
Although she now holds the position as president of the class of 2022, as well as being a representative-at-large in the Student Government Association, Gossman reverts back to her humble beginning, just months ago.
“I went to club sign up day,” she says. “I saw a bunch of encouraging people getting me involved, pushing me forward in a positive direction, so I just want to do that and influence other people to do the same.”
Gossman says she enjoys the sizes of her classes and approachability that her professors express in and outside of the classroom.
“Whether it’s stopping into office hours or even just being able to contact them with any questions about my major, it’s really nice to have that student-teacher connection. Even for the future, I think it’s important to start building relationships early,” Gossman says.
On her recent transition to campus, she says, “The whole environment is so different, it’s more of ‘how am I going to get this done,’” Gossman continues, “It’s a lot of time management and it’s very independent…. I think that was a good change for me because I like being able to make my own schedule, do my work when I need to, and also just relax and hang out with my friends at the end of the day.”
Using what she has learned during the past year, Gossman encourages students to get involved. There is a place for everyone on campus, she says.
“When you have your school work in check and your extracurriculars in check, it just makes the transition so much easier,” she says.
Dajon Lopez, a business major, opens up about occasionally struggling with time management.
“I’m a member in the Southern Marketing Club,” he says, “but I haven’t been active in it because I’ve been transitioning from the workload.”
He says the work from his classes are challenging, but despite this, there are also people to hang out with. However, he says students should branch out from their comfort zone, attempt new things and interact with others.
“Once you really feel like you have a hold on your academics, you should really try to get out there and try new things because there’s a lot of things that go on at Southern,” he says.
He says he plans on devoting more time to clubs on campus, now that he feels more of a balance between school and social life.
“When you’re always focused on academics, you’re not developing yourself to be able to encounter real-world situations, and it’s not going to help you like being social would,” he says.
For Alyssa Martinez, a public health major, finding an organization that allowed her to follow her passions presented her with life-changing experiences.
“I’m part of Global Brigades, which is basically a club that does volunteer work in other countries.” She says, “This year, we went to Ghana in January, and that definitely changed me. I feel like I don’t complain as much.”
Martinez says of the trip, “It was just a lot of fun, the people were just lovely, great, friendly people,” says Martinez. “We did public health work. We basically build bio-digestive toilets from them, sanitation-wise, we basically built a septic tank, but it’s [eco-friendlier]. It was a lot of hard work,” she says.
“It helped me view the world in a different perspective because I always looked at it one way, so I saw it from theirs,” she says.
Although Martinez is grateful for the experience she has had thus far, she has had her fair share of ups-and-downs. She says it was difficult to adjust to college life considering she lives with a roommate she did not know beforehand.
She says getting involved has had a positive impact in helping her adjust to living on campus.
“Get involved in a club if you find yourself with a lot of time, and you’re bored, and you need to make friends.” Martinez says, “I just think that’s a good way to do something that you like and if you need to show leadership positions, try and do that early.”
When it comes to getting out of one’s comfort zone, Martinez says, by talking to others she was able to get over her introvert ways. She says others should try to reach out more as well.
For Nicole Henderson, academic director of First-Year Experience she says getting to know students and offering a comfortable, and trusting environment are key to the adjustment process.
“It’s a trajectory, exposing [students] to more things and letting them participate and the INQ course is meant to actually mind to force them to go out there and try a few things.” Henderson says the INQ curriculum is designed to help students become aware of, and engaged with, the services, clubs, and support offered at Southern.
She says, “Sometimes people don’t even know they want to be involved until they have the experience, “says Henderson.
Dyan Robinson, assistant director of First Year Experience says peer mentoring can help first-year students as well. They can also reach out to someone at the success center for help.
“That’s an intentional goal here at the Southern Success Center- that when you walk up here, you feel welcomed- and that you have a conversation with someone.”
She emphasizes the personal aspect between faculty and students, “[The goal of] trying to really get to know who students are and then helping them connect in real ways,” says Henderson.
Robinson encourages students to not be afraid to self-advocate.
“This is a safe space where they can come and ask questions without feeling judged or worried about if we’re going to think a question is silly or not appropriate for where they are in their development.” She adds, “This is a welcoming place that they can come to.”